A United Airlines 737 10 will be used to conduct a test for the Boeing/NASA Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project.

Boeing, NASA, United to Test Sustainable Fuel

Oct. 13, 2023
A 737 will be flown with SAF and conventional jet fuel in separate tanks, to test their alternative effects and to measure how commercial flight affects the atmosphere – and how best to reduce its climate impact.

Boeing is preparing a new demonstration to measure how sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) affects contrails and non-carbon emissions, in addition to reducing the climate impact of SAF.  It will be a new phase of the jet-builder’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator partnership with NASA, which is focused on supporting the civil aviation industry's target of net-zero-carbon emissions (by 2050.) The current demonstration involves a 737 MAX-10 aircraft destined for United Airlines, which will fly with 100% SAF and conventional jet fuel in separate tanks, and alternate those fuels during testing.

A NASA's DC-8 Airborne Science Lab will fly behind the 737 and measure emissions produced by each type of fuel and contrail ice particles. NASA satellites will collect images of contrail formation as part of the testing.

Researchers aim to understand how advanced fuels, engine combustor designs and other technologies may reduce atmospheric warming. For example, tests will assess how SAF affects the characteristics of contrails.

Sustainable aviation fuel is jet fuel produced from waste oils derived from biological sources (e.g., cooking oil, other non-palm waste oils from plants, agricultural residue, or non-fossil CO2), or solid waste from homes or businesses (e.g., packaging, paper, textiles, food waste.) Currently, commercial aircraft are certified to operate on a maximum of 50% SAF blended with conventional jet fuel, though aircraft and jet-engine manufacturers have made commitments to increase the effective applicability of the alternative fuel.

The SAF to be used in the research will be provided by World Energy. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is providing funding for the project, and GE Aerospace is supplying technical expertise and project funding.

Boeing and NASA are involved in a multi-year program to analyze how SAF can reduce aircraft emissions. According to Boeing chief sustainability officer Chris Raymond. "We've solved hard problems before, and if we continue to take meaningful actions, I'm confident we'll achieve a more sustainable aerospace future, together."

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